Gold Head State Park in Keystone Heights

Experience the real Florida – Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park.

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park is one of Florida’s oldest state parks. The park was created by the Civilian Conservation Core in the 1930s, opening its doors on 1941. With a total of sixteen vacation cabins overlooking scenic Little Lake Johnson, and nine of these cabins were built by the Civilian Conversation Core, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park is a city-free and historical getaway for the everyone.

Along with its rich history, the park is home to many of Florida’s natural beauties. Let’s find out below…

What else can you find in Gold Head State Park?

Primitive Camping

kids by campfire gold head state park
Keeping warm by the fire. Image: Instagram / kevin.p.snow

What’s not to love about camping outdoors? You’ll be surrounded by nature, experiencing a low-tech getaway, and unwinding from the everyday grind.

Mike Roess Gold Head State Park offers guests two primitive campsites. Campsites include picnic table, fire ring and a pavilion. You won’t find water or electricity. Of course to enjoy the primitive campsite you must be able to hike to it, which is about a 3/4 mile walk. Learn more about primitive camping at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park.

Gold Head allows pets!

dog and owner in campsite at gold head state park, keystone heights, florida
Dogs love Gold Head state park! Image: Instagram/ @ohmissbell

Great news pet owners! You can bring your fur-baby with you hike Gold Head’s natural scenic trail; unfortunately though, pets are not permitted in these areas: inside of any buildings, the cabins and cabin area, the playground, the primitive group camping area, the primitive camping area, the swimming area, the beach, and the lake.

But they get to enjoy being in one of Gold Head’s 73 campground sites, which are equipped with a picnic table, fire-ring, grill and potable water, also 20 and 30 amp electrical service are available in certain sites.

Water lovers rejoice!

lake in mike roess gold head state park
Lake in Mike Roess State Park. Image: Instagram/ @my_best_shots

Fishing, canoeing, and swimming can be done at Gold Head Branch State Park. Canoes are available for rent, swimming & fishing can be done at Little Lake Johnson in the park, though fishing is prohibited in Sheelar Lake, Deer Lake, and Pebble Lake (the other lakes in the state park).

There is Wildlife!

coral snake seen in grass at mike roess gold head state park
What where you step! coral snake at Mike Roess State Park. Image: Instagram / @lordmuddyfeet

You’ll see many cool things at Gold Head Branch State Park, but the coolest would probably be the woodland creatures that live at the park.
The animals you’ll have the opportunity to see are: gray squirrels, cottontail rabbits, and white-tailed deer, gophers, gopher tortoise, southern fence lizard, six-lined racerunner, green anole, as well as many kinds of snakes.

Deer in Mike Roess State Park
Deer just spotted us. I believe they’re thinking “should we stay or should we go?” Image: Instagram / @lilyro
owl perched on tree in mike roess gold head state park, keystone heights
The day is coming to an end…hello, dinner. Image: Instagram / @a_photogsreallife

Moss Man!

Woman and child in front of Moss Man at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park in Keystone Heights
Moss Man hangs out, greeting guests at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

Legend has it (well, at least the Moss Man’s origin tales) that Moss man was once a young Air Force fighter pilot stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. During one of his flying training maneuvers, the plane unexpectedly malfunctioned and crashed into the forest. The young pilot managed to escape from the burning debris, but his flight suit was set ablaze and began melting to his skin. Frantically, the pilot tried desperately to extinguish the flame by rolling on the ground. As he did, the Spanish moss on the ground began to solder to his sizzling skin. The young pilot panicked and went into a frenzy; terror-strickened, the young pilot’s eyes began to redden as the blood raced to his head. The pilot, despondent about his physical appearance and situation, left into the woods to live the remaining years of his life as Moss man.

FYI: When at the park it is customary to tell campfire stories…be prepared to tell your scary tale!

Controlled Fires

man in front of controlled fire in mike roess gold head state park while he smiles
Controlled fire in Mike Roess Gold Head state park. Image: Instagram / @wzegan18

Controlled fires are prescribed burns that are intentionally set for forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. At certain times of the year, sections of the park will be closed because of controlled fires. But don’t fret, there is much more park to be seen. You’ll just have an excuse to come back and check out the section that you missed.

See You Next Time at the Park

As all good things go, so must we. FYI: maximum stay at Mike Roess Gold Head State Park is 2 weeks. So enjoy the two weeks and visit the surrounding cities: like Keystone Heights, Gainesville & Jacksonville, and don’t forget to take a dip in one of the many Florida springs.

Go deeper to learn more about Mike Roess Gold Head State Park with this interview from 50Campfires.

women facing away sitting in middle of road in Mike Roess State park with hands up, signaling peace sign
Until next time Gold Head State Park. Image: Instagram / @___carol____